Unui Jang’s works are characterized by fruits in shiny bowls against a bright surface. In particular, they often consist of realist still-life images of green apples, recalling the apple paintings of Korbinian Aigner, a Bavarian priest and noted pomologist (i.e., working in the science of fruit). For his political resistance towards the Nazis, Father Aigner was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was forced to continue his studies of apple varieties. While Father Aigner’s works are notable as scientific illustrations documenting different varieties of apples, Unui Jang’s paintings are just as significant for her conceptual use of highly realistic imagery.
Unui Jang’s paintings always take a bird’s eye view, looking straight down at the bowls of fruit, and thus highlighting the circular shapes of the depicted objects. In this way, the precise, clean-cut circle of the bowl seems to form an antithesis with the irregular, organic circle of the fruits. This binary correlation is further emphasized by the works’ titles, such as Four Circles (Three Summer Apples and a Bowl), and systematic descriptions of the geometric shapes of natural and artificial prototypes. By precisely visualizing both the broad similarities and minute differences between organic and artificial objects, Unui Jang connects two different clauses—i.e., nature and humanity—in parentheses, thus integrating them within the same conceptual classification.
Another crucial aspect of Unui Jang’s works is light. Like her paintings, her studio is always filled with light, both bright and subtle. In her works, such light is like a divine blessing, delicately wrapping the bowls and fruits and imbuing them with an ethereal ambience, lifting them up from their own materiality or geometry. Interestingly, in all of her works, the light comes from the right side, just as the God was traditionally represented on the right in medieval paintings. Reminiscent of paintings by Lucas Kranach the Elder, Jang’s Two Circles (A Summer Apple and a Blue Bowl) series features fruits in navy blue bowls, arousing an array of symbolic interpretations through the striking contrast between light and dark.
Of course, these paintings looking straight down from above are intended to be hung on the wall. As such, they evince a very unique visual perspective, as if they are being seen from the top and from the side at the same time. Unui Jang’s art comprises not only her paintings, but also this distinct iconography itself, both realistic and abstract, simultaneously conjuring the present and distant memories. Through her delicate, luminous pictorial techniques, all of these concepts swirl around the boundary between materiality and imagery. In this liminal realm, her art ultimately enacts a “Clear Coldness” that is characterized by the encounter of objects in the primal state before meaning.
“Recently, by painting fruits or fruits on a plate or bowl, I’ve been addressing some type of relationship that is both ordinary and ideal. At first glance, the circle of a plate or bowl looks similar to that of fruits, but they are actually very different. Belonging to the artificial world and the natural world (respectively), they are entities pursuing formal perfection from different directions. My depictions are symbolic, showing the fundamental coexistence of these different worlds in faithful relation to one another, without pondering why they are different. People rarely experience this state, even though it also applies to the ways that we live together. These utterly familiar scenes felt unfamiliar to me, taking on a special beauty, so I’ve been turning them into paintings.”
from Artist’s Notes
Through myriad formal changes, [Unui Jang] finds the precise moment of relation between apples and artificial objects. Looking straight down from above, she uses a camera to capture this moment in a photo. The photograph documents the relationship between the objects, providing an opportunity to closely observe and compare their placement, size, and proportion. At this point, the artist determines the size and shape of the painting. She then makes a sketch on a canvas infused with her unique clear blue color, before finally beginning the coloring. In the resulting series of paintings, fruits with ideal shapes and colors are arranged in some relation with nondescript artificial objects. While the general form of the artificial objects is round, each shows variations in terms of its surfaces and materiality. In another series, green apples in a bowl or on a plate appear repeatedly. Unui Jang thus presents her own creative challenge to naturalist paintings that purport to represent real objects as they are.
from “Summer When Apples Fall” (2019) by Ekkehard Neumann (Artist, Curator)